Friday, September 16, 2011

The Robust Five

Prologue - Beltan          

Beltan was the oldest prison camp in Kusseth. In the many decades since the shafts were first dug it had become a heavily mined crater of mined out veins and collapsed tunnels surrounded by rocky hills and brown scrublands where penal legions trained and died for the Kussethian war machine. The mine was old and deep, and beneath the collapsed tunnels and weakened support timbers, veins of wolf-iron and springsteel were still thick. Convict miners bled and died in the dark tunnels, dragging carts and crates of ore back up to the surface under the grim eye of corrections wardens. 

The mine was legendary among criminals of Kusseth, their own special mythic underworld of cruel mining and grueling training for the penal legions, the place white and blue collar criminals alike ended up, sentences decided by random and entirely dependant upon the mood of a judge or warden. It was a hole run by wardens and split up into little empires of warring gangs and competing platoons. It had been the first penal colony of The New Empire, and the first outpost of Kusseth when the nation warred for its freedom. 

In the fenced in compounds around the mine, the blood of penal legionnaires perpetually sated the thirst of the dry scrubland that was Kusseth's soil. In the trenches around the camp prisoners screamed and cursed as they were whipped and shot and made to suffer and bleed in the name of Kusseth's war effort. In the yards of the prison proper gangs fought under the watchful eye of wardens. Bards traded coin and smokes with wardens in exchange for news of the outside and special treatment on the inside. In the upper mines, Elduman psychics bored out the minds of fellow prisoners and turned them to the task of mining on their behalf. 

In the lower mines, where shafts were surrounded by walls of pure wolf-iron and beltanizine crunched under every step, a Soulless called the Beast was chained. Under his scything talons and mindless fury huge piles of ore and rock were excavated. Wardens and miners tripled and quadrupled their required ore orders with no more exertion than it took to batter the Beast with metal flails or wound it with a welding torch when it grew too enraged to be controlled. 

None escaped Beltan without being changed by the experience. It tortured men and women, broke down the proud, steeled the spines of the weak and turned kind men into apathetic desperados. The gangs took what they desired from the pool of convicts, reinforcing what made them strong and cutting away what made them a liability. Beltan was a black cruicible of bloodied dirt and rock that took men and reworked them into a living parody of its own uncaring cruelty and hopelessness.

Edit After The Fact: It now occurs to me, about three days after writing this, that I have just turned Beltan inmates into Sardaukar. Oh well, shit happens and the spice must flow.

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